Digital payments: Is it feasible for districts to go ‘cash-free’?

"While districts and parents want to move to cashless systems, it is clear districts need additional resources to make it happen," Bryan Jones, CEO of LINQ, said in a statement.

“The right digital payment solution reduces burdens on school district staff and creates a more efficient work environment with a goal to reduce overall expense and risk to the school district. When districts are responsive to parents’ preferences, they can foster an environment that benefits all.”

That’s according to Keith Womack, general manager of payments at LINQ, a provider of K12 business platform solutions, in reference to their new survey of school districts and parents that sheds light on the ongoing complexities surrounding school payments and communications.

Despite a recent technological boom in the education industry—primarily in the edtech sector as a result of the pandemic—many parents continue to voice frustration over the headache that is their school’s mix of payment options for a variety of fees.

While 91% of districts “desire” to move to what they envision as a cashless future, many districts are hesitant to do so because:

  • It’s too complicated
    • 48% of urban districts
    • 34% of suburban districts
    • 28% of rural districts
  • It’s too expensive
    • 42% of urban districts
    • 32% of suburban districts
    • 30% of rural districts
  • Not enough personnel
    • 40% of urban districts
    • 24% of suburban districts
    • 42% of rural districts
  • Fraud risk
    • 29% of urban districts
    • 26% of suburban districts
    • 17% of rural districts
  • Too many people involved
    • 52% of urban districts
    • 30% of suburban districts
    • 26% of rural districts

“While districts and parents want to move to cashless systems, it is clear districts need additional resources to make it happen,” Bryan Jones, CEO of LINQ, said in a statement. “K12 leaders can improve security, transparency and accountability by digitizing and modernizing their payments approach.”

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Districts were also asked to consider which features they believe to be most important when considering digital payment providers. Above all, leaders value “security and access control” the most (45%), in addition to:

  • Easy implementation: 40%
  • Affordable product line: 40%
  • Parent and staff portals: 39%
  • User support and training: 38%

However, as the survey concludes, parents would like to see districts transition away from requiring cash payments for certain fees while consolidating the number of digital applications used for such processes. At the moment, parents are most commonly asked to provide cash payments for things like sporting events and plays (41%), field trips (39%) and other sports-related activities (35%).

If you’re one of the many administrators hoping to transition to a more digitized form of payment opportunities for parents, know that families value products and apps that are:

  • Easy to use (87%)
  • Require low or no fees (86%)
  • Have security controls (85%)
  • Have mobile accessibility (83%)

“By addressing the concerns of both districts and parents, payment applications in K12 education can create an environment where financial transactions are not only seamless, but also tailored to meet the needs of all stakeholders,” the report declares.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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